By Sarah Taylor
50 million refugees now live worldwide – the worst refugee crisis the world has faced since the end of World War II. These refugees hail from countries such as Libya, Syria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Yemen. 1 in 5 of these refugees are Syrian. Countries like Jordan and Lebanon have made remarkable short-term steps towards providing humanitarian aid to millions of these refugees, with minimal foreign assistance. However, according to Brookings analyst Maha Yahya, “There is a sense of despair, particularly in Jordan and Lebanon, where being a refugee means living in limbo: unable to work, surviving on aid, and having one’s movements restricted. There is simply no prospect of establishing any kind of future for oneself or one’s family.” Many Syrian refugees are well educated and worked as doctors, lawyers, and engineers in Syria, yet, as they wait in refugee camps, their talents go to waste.
Syria’s four-year civil war has reversed all development gains in areas such as education, healthcare, and food security. 80% of Syrians face poverty. This “massive new underclass of impoverished citizens”, according to Yahya, jeopardizes “the future of generations, placing some at risk of radicalization. Refugees and internally displaced persons are living in a state of exception, pushed to the fringes of society, unable to reconstitute their lives or make a gainful living.” Jordan, Lebanon, and the rest of the world need long-term solutions for these refugees so that they may find jobs, begin new lives in their host countries, and avoid radicalization by groups like the Islamic State.